8 Essential steps to building relationship capability in professional service firms

Naomi Oforiokuma, Concep Business Development Manager for Enterprise

B2B relationships are the lynchpin of success in professional services.  Marketing is all about facilitating new relationships and BD taking up the baton to develop and engage our audiences.  To work smarter and deliver the business outcomes we want, we first need to ensure we have the internal capability to do so.

There are four areas that when aligned build internal capability: process, strategies, mindset and technology.  To get the most out of our technology platforms we first need to ensure we have done the necessary thinking, planning and preparation to ensure success. Whether you are currently using a CRM platform or thinking about acquiring one, it’s never too late to take time out and follow the 8 key steps to building relationship capability.


Great tech solutions start with a good understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how to get there. Invest the time in identifying how you connect with your audience and where the gaps are and in finding ways to close the gaps.  Pay special attention to gaps in process that involve passing the baton between marketing and BD.  Ensuring your cross-functional processes are watertight will stop you working in silos and create accountability each step of the way.

 #2 Calculate how many processes you have and how long it takes.

Marketing technology is aimed at creating efficiencies and freeing teams up from repetitive or low value-add tasks.  Who wants to crunch data for a report when you can get the same results at the click of a button? Knowing how many processes are involved in reaching your goals and how long they take will invaluable when it comes to putting together a business case for technology or for reporting on efficiency savings once you have the technology.

 #3 Identify the metrics that matter

Reporting on metrics can take you down a rabbit hole unless you focus on the marketing and sales metrics that measure progress towards your ultimate goal.  If it is increasing engagement – how will you measure that?  Marketing can get caught up in the Click-to-open rates of an email campaign as a measure of engagement: but what other data is available that will be meaningful for business development teams as well?  What will tell you where your most valuable leads are or identify clients who are disengaged and likely to find an alternative firm to work with?

 #4 Build reports that work for marketing and for BD

Your technology platform should enable you to display key data in real time and in a scheduled cadence in a way that quickly identifies trends and patterns or analytics. You’ll save time running reports giving you time to digest and pull out any insights that will help you identify areas of opportunity and grow the business.  Reports are only useful when they serve that purpose.  Define what it is you need to know as a marketing and BD team, what metric will give you that knowledge and when.  A good report should be future-focused in that it helps you decide your next action – not just a download of what happened in the past. 

 #5 Have a good data strategy

The difference between ‘insights’ and ‘intelligence’ lies in how you select, manage and use your data. What data do you need to collect about your contacts, how will you store it?  How will you keep it safe? Take time to understand what data you have already and how it is segmented. How will you keep data relevant? How often will you run a list cleaner?  What steps are you taking to ensure your data is secure? What other data from your organisation do you need to pull in to create engagement intelligence – intelligence that will lead to innovation and growth.

 #6 Ditch the silo mentality!

Building valuable B2B relationships is a team sport. If you are working in a silo - your data is most likely to be in a silo too.  You need a 360-degree view of how your relationships are engaging with your firm and how key stakeholders are engaging with contacts. By always focusing on the bigger picture you'll be able to think strategically. The Marketing/BD divide has no place in today’s competitive and changing market.

#7 Plan your technology stack

Once you have identified what you want to achieve and the processes you use to get you there it’s time to look at your technology. What technology will help you eliminate processes and save you time?  What technology will help you surface the data and compile them in easy-to-digest formats – freeing you up to add the value by combining with your knowledge and experience. What will you need your technology to integrate with?  Having a technology stack planning session with key stakeholders will help you narrow down what you need and what you don’t need. Think about technology that is scalable and will grow with your needs. You want to be able to get return on your investment quickly and not have to re-invest in technology in 5 years’ time. Above all, plan your tech stack with your audience in mind.  If they don’t use e-commerce apps to engage with you, why invest in technology that integrates with Shopify!  Focus on technology that will give you the visibility of your organisational operations and financial status to better manage your business.

#8 Choose your tech partner carefully

65% of professional services firms want their tech provider to be a source of new ideas and good practice. Make sure your tech partner has deep level knowledge in your sector and understands your challenges and requirements. Are they innovating and developing their product to meet the specific requirements of your sector?  It takes time to use technology well and your team will onboard a lot faster if they have opportunities to learn the system as and when they need it.  Think beyond the technology and the integration. Think about your future relationship with them. Will they be around to help you get the most out of your investment and accelerate ROI?

 With collaboration, aligned processes and data strategies combined with a growth mindset, commitment and discipline, you will have a solid foundation and the capability to build the relationships you need to achieve your goals.

Join Naomi on a 20-minute webinar where she explores how the professional services landscape is changing and what firms need to develop stronger B2B relationships that drive revenue.